Parking your car in Swiss towns and cities
Parking in smaller towns is mostly not a problem. Traffic can be complex in the city centers of larger towns though. Streets are narrow, and there's lots of traffic and lots of one way streets. Parking can be hard to find. There's a good alternative: drive to a nearby town or suburb and take the train from there.
Free parking space can mostly be found in the smaller towns or suburbs, for example at shopping centers, hotel car parks (for guests only) or in the street. There are time-limited free parking blue zones as well.
Parking in blue zones with a parking disc
Blue zones are marked with blue lines and signs. You can park there for free for one hour, if you use a parking disc. The disc must be used Monday through Saturday between 8:00 AM and 7:00 PM. Exceptions may apply, so pay attention to the local signs.
Make sure to have a valid parking disc in your car. It must be blue and at least 11 cm wide and 15 cm high. Other versions are not valid. The disc can be used in other countries as well, e.g. in Germany. Rental cars should have a disc on board.
How to use a parking disc in Switzerland:
Indicate your arrival time: rotate the disc to the next half hour. For example: if you arrive at 10:10 AM, rotate it to 10:30 AM.
Place the disc on the dashboard and make sure it's clearly visible from the outside.
Depart no later than one hour after the indicated arrival time. In this example, you should depart at 11:30 AM at the latest. So, depending on your arrival time, your maximum allowed parking time could be 1h29.
It's not allowed to get back to your car and change your arrival time, in order to park longer.
Parking costs in Switzerland
Paid parking is the norm in Switzerland, especially around popular places like rail stations, hotels and town centers. Even as a hotel guest, you often need to pay for parking separately. Count on CHF 10 to 50 per day. Parking in the larger cities is quite expensive: up to CHF 4 per hour.
Paying is done in several ways:
- Hotel guests can pay for their parking costs during the check-out procedure.
- In public parking garages you'll find machines. Before you leave, you'll have to enter the parking ticket you received when driving in. You'll pay in cash or with debit/credit card.
- On many parking lots you'll find parking meters. The older versions require Swiss coins. Many are digital though. You can enter the number of your parking lot and pay in cash or by debit/credit card.
- A growing number of parking lots can be paid with mobile apps, linked to your credit card or bank account. You'll have to enter your parking lot and parking duration. Examples of apps used in Switzerland are Park Now, ParkingPay, EasyPark, SEPP Parking and TWINT.
Parking at rail stations
You can park your car at about 550 parking lots near rail stations. Most of them are paid. Use the SBB website or download the SBB P+Rail app to select a location and to pay in advance by credit card. Choose between day passes and payment per hour.
Note that many, but not all rail parking facilities are included in the app, and that advance payment for any location is not the same as making a reservation. So payment does not guarantee that parking space will actually be available.
Monthly or annual subscriptions for specific locations are available too. You'll have to arrange for them at the station's ticket counter. There are online purchase options, but those require a SwissPass account. That's a digital account mostly used by Swiss residents.